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I do a lot of my grocery shopping at the bodega on my corner, and my diet is broken down more from the produce – the dependable broccoli, a plastic bowl of gres, an occasional pre-cut mango – I find on the shelves than I probably should admit this food side. But this kind of grab-and-go subsistence made me fall in love with turkey bacon.
On a recent trip shopping for breakfast staples, I realized that my corner shop is halal – under Islamic Food Law – and only sells turkey bacon, not the pork I was looking for. The turkey variety was the same color as deli ham, the same as pork bacon, but without any signs of fat or marbling. I wasn’t optimistic, but I grabbed something and drove home.
The turkey bacon was about as promising in the pan as it was on the shelf. With no fat, it steamed as it cooked through and drained way too much water when I turned it back and forth. I doubted these pink turkey strips would light up my brain like a really good slice of bacon does, or even be crispy enough to hold their shape as I dragged them through egg yolks.
I dumped a little olive oil in the pan, hoping to nudge the turkey bacon towards life, and then it transformed. The edges became crispy, the pink meat turned pleasantly brown like bacon. While the lack of fat initially worried me, I was thrilled that I found no layer of fat in my kitchen and no bacon smell seeping into anything I own like pork would. And the turkey bacon itself? Yummy.
Before I am crucified by her Well, turkey bacon isn’t actually even real bacon Folks, I should say I never was – not even in the middle of the time when bacon was in everything from cookies to perfume – the big fan. I like bacon, but I find the saltiness of a round slice of Canadian bacon more satisfying and the crispiness of a crackling slice of roasted pork belly. Bacon is good enough in everything it does – adequate and wired, but never amazing. Sure, it’s good next to a tall stack of pancakes, but also anything that’s doused with mle syrup. The fanciest of bacon – that super thick cut, perfectly smoky-sweet stuff – is fantastic, yes, but rarer and harder to find than bacon fanatics would have us believe.
Regular turkey bacon, on the other hand, doesn’t have all of the stubborn fat when cooked to a tougher texture, and if it continues to crunch it won’t get as dry and brittle as the pork. It gained popularity in the 80s and 90s, aided by the incessant and insulting calls of the food culture to eat less fat and give up taste in order to cut down on calories. But as a late ’90s baby, I missed most of it and had never eaten turkey bacon before stumbling across it at my bodega. Perhaps because I’m devoid of memories of the low fat diet era, I didn’t hesitate to add fat to the pan to improve the turkey bacon. It takes a very generous sip of olive oil to turn the less promising strips into an ideal breakfast.
Granted, turkey bacon isn’t quite as simple a product as its pork cousin. While bacon Bacon comes from the pork belly, turkey bacon comes from … everywhere. A mixture of light and dark turkey meat is ground and pressed into a bacon-like shape. But that’s fine. Whatever the cut and process, I’ll be there.
Now I fold my freshly baked turkey bacon into sandwiches, I eat it next to eggs, pancakes or waffles. I – you have the idea – treat him the same way I treat other bacon. It’s definitely less filling, but that only leaves me room to eat about twice as much. I’m not going to sit here trying to convince anyone that turkey bacon is tasty more like bacon as actual bacon. It doesn’t. But it delivers everything I want, something regular bacon never has.